° empty

Online sales shouldn’t be tax-exempted

Congress may have found a tax that most local business owners — even the most ardently conservative ones — actually like.

U.S. representatives and senators are debating whether or not to begin mandating that sales tax be applied to all online sales transactions.

Clearly, such a move is long overdue and just makes sense.

It’s baffling that our country hasn’t acted on this matter before now. The sales tax advantage is enough of a draw to pull sales away from local, so-called brick and mortar retailers.

You know who these folks are, they’re the businesses that locally sponsor youth sports, donate goods and services to Relay for Life events, sponsor local events such as the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and support dozens of other local causes and events.

So is it fair to give online-only retailers a 4- to 7-percent price advantage over the mom and pop store down the street?

We don’t think so. Particularly since we don’t recall any of the national online retail powerhouses such as Amazon, Target or Zappos investing much in our community.

Initially, we imagine the failure to mandate sales tax collection stemmed from a lack of understanding of just how enormous online business would grow.

Online sales last year totaled $226 billion in the U.S., and that number grows each year. States —including Mississippi and Louisiana — are losing billions of dollars in sales tax revenue because they are only allowed to require the tax if the business has a physical presence in the state.

Hopefully, some 20 years after the “World Wide Web” came online, we can right this wrong and do what’s fair for all businesses, whether on Main Street, U.S.A., or on a Web server in cyberspace.